A buzzword is a word or phrase that becomes very popular for a period of time. It may be a technical term and may have little meaning, being simply used to impress others. Buzzwords often originate in jargon, acronyms, or neologisms. Business speech is particular vulnerable to buzzwords. Examples of overworked business buzzwords include synergy, vertical, dynamic, and strategy; one of the most heavily used buzzword phrases is “think outside the box.” It has been stated that a business could not operate without buzzwords; they are shorthand or internal shortcuts and they make perfect sense to the people in that company. However, a useful buzzword can become co-opted into general popular speech and lose its usefulness. According to management professor Robert Kreitner, “Buzzwords are the literary equivalent of Gresham’s Law. They will drive out good ideas.” Buzzwords are also prominent in politics, where they can result in a process which “privileges rhetoric over reality, producing policies that are ‘operationalized’ first and only ‘conceptualized’ at a later date.” The resulting political speech is known for “eschewing reasoned debate (as characterized by the use of evidence and structured argument), instead employing language exclusively for the purposes of control and manipulation.” The term was first used in 1946 as student slang.
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